President Obama sent Congress a $3.77 trillion budget on Wednesday that calls for slowing the rate at which Social Security and Medicare benefits are increased -- marking the first time in his presidency he has taken such a step.
In releasing the budget for the 12 months beginning Oct. 1, known as fiscal 2014, the White House said it would trim the U.S. deficit over three years through spending cuts and higher taxes on the wealthy.
The administration budget, which projects taxes and spending for the next 10 years, envisions a deficit for fiscal 2014 of $744 billion, or 4.4 percent of the economy, according to the White House. By 2016 the budget deficit would fall to 2.8 percent, and by the end of this decade, the deficit would decline to 1.7 percent.
In February the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that for this fiscal year, the U.S. budget deficit will be 5.3 percent.
The 10-year span that the new budget covers would reduce federal spending by $1.2 billion and would replace the spending cuts known as sequestration that began on March 1, the administration said in a statement.
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The budget proposes a switch to a “chained” consumer price index to calculate cost-of-living increases for Social Security. The upshot would be smaller increases, and taxpayers would be raised into higher brackets more quickly than they are presently.
Obama is also proposing reducing payments to drug companies and health-care providers, as well as requiring wealthy Social Security beneficiaries to pay a higher amount.
There also is a provision in the plan for a 10 percent tax credit for small businesses that hire new workers or raise wages.
On the taxing side, Obama’s budget aims to raise $580 billion by closing so-called loopholes and curbing deductions for top earners. The budget proposes a minimum tax of 30 percent on households with more than $1 million in yearly earnings.
Obama is proposing $50 billion in spending on infrastructure projects like bridges and roads, $1 billion for higher education, and another billion to encourage manufacturing innovation.
As delivered, the proposed budget is not expected to be approved due to Republican objections to the taxing provisions.
"Apart from reports of a modest entitlement change -- and we'll need to see the details on that -- it sounds like the White House just tossed last year's budget in the microwave," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said shortly before the budget was released.
Further, liberal Democrats may object to the proposed spending cuts.
“Given the weak state of our economic recovery, the President’s budget unfortunately prioritizes negotiating with Republicans on deficit reduction over making a serious effort to create jobs and invest in human and physical capital,” said Rebecca Thiess, policy analyst for the Economic Policy Institute in Washington.
“Furthermore, I am disappointed to see the Administration include the chained CPI in their budget proposal. Switching to a chained CPI would reduce benefits for Social Security recipients, most of whom cannot afford a benefit reduction. And not only is Social Security not a driver of our long-term debt, but it is a self-financing program whose modest long-term shortfall can be fixed with policy tweaks—in the decades to come—that don’t harm beneficiaries. Diminishing this program should not be on the table.”